Do’s & Don'ts for executives working with the MEDIA
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Do’s & Don'ts for executives working with the MEDIA

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CONTENTS:

1. PREPARING FOR INTERVIEWS

2. CONDUCTING MEDIA INTERVIEWS

3. NEWSPAPER INTERVIEWS

4. INTERVIEWS IN A CROWD

5. TV INTERVIEWS


1. PREPARING FOR INTERVIEWS

Preparing fully for any media interview is indispensable - the sine qua non of an effective performance. Even if the interview covers ground on which you are an ‘expert', you should still take time to consider how to engage with the journalist (or programme) you are due to speak to.

Your press contact should support this process, giving you background and briefing you on how to approach the interview.

In normal circumstances, you should have sufficient time to cover the following checklist:

1. What story is the journalist seeking?

2. What angle are they likely to take?

3. What is the attitude of the journalist or news organisation on the subject in question?

4. What are your key messages?

5. If it's radio/TV, will you be live or taped?

6. Will you be interviewed alone, or will others take part?

7. Can you extract some of the questions from the journalist or producer in advance?

8. What is the very worst question you could be asked? Can you answer it?

To ensure a good interview, it is essential to establish two things:

· your key messages, and

· how you will answer the obvious (and the not so obvious) questions.

If you don't feel confident about either, do not do the interview. Feel free to ‘rehearse' the interview with a colleague.

There is a journalistic technique known as ‘doorstepping' in which the journalist tries to get you to do the interview on the spot. Some reporters do it to lure you off guard, hoping you will be indiscreet or contradict either yourself or someone else. Others do it because they are disorganised. Don't be tempted to launch into an interview ill prepared. You will quickly find yourself out of your depth or making up answers without appropriate consideration.

2. CONDUCTING MEDIA INTERVIEWS

"What's the secret of our success? Four words that every child knows: Tell me a story." Producer, ‘60 Minutes'

This quote from the top-rated US TV news show captures the essence of a good media interview. That is, ‘tell a story'. The analogy with a child is also helpful, as we should be sure to ‘keep it simple'. In practice, this isn't always as easy as it sounds.

The following guidance may help. General rules of the road

· An interview is an opportunity, not a threat.

· Prepare yourself thoroughly

· Identify your three key messages and concentrate on getting them across in your interview.

· Keep your answers precise, factual and brief, without being monosyllabic. It is the interviewer's job to keep the interview going, not yours.

· Don't use jargon and be simple. Pitch your story at the ‘general public'.

· If you don't know an answer, say so. If you can't answer, say so and briefly explain why (eg. client affairs).

· Never lie, guess or speculate.

· Don't provide forecasts, particularly of a financial nature.

· Whatever the provocation, never allow yourself to become emotional. A raised voice is a lost argument so, if necessary, let the interviewer look foolish, not you.

· Don't answer hypothetical questions. They are dangerous, especially when ‘edited'.

· Avoid comment on politics or socially sensitive issues.

· Don't speak for other organisations. You are representing your organization only and any view you offer will be taken as the word or policy of your company.

· Beware ‘last' questions. Some journalists will thank you for the interview and pack up to leave. By changing the formal atmosphere, they hope to catch you

off guard.

3. NEWSPAPER INTERVIEWS

In addition to the general ‘rules of the road' , bear the following in mind when Conducting interviews face-to-face or on the telephone with Newspaper journalists:

· If a journalist visits your office, make sure colleagues nearby know you have a media guest - careless talk. Some reporters like to tape their interviews. You should not resist this.

· In most instances, make sure your company press contact is with you. They should take brief notes.

· Avoid going ‘off-the-record' . If you need to, make sure you agree this in advance and exactly what it means to the journalist concerned - you can't take back what you've already said.

· Don't expect, or ask, journalists to show you a draft of their article. Unless there are translation issues, this smacks of ‘censorship' and will offend some titles. Wait to be asked.

· If you think it is absolutely necessary, ask your press contact if you can ask to see any quotes likely to be attributed to you - but use this technique sparingly.

· Agree to research any questions you can't answer and make sure you call the reporter back.

4. INTERVIEWS IN A CROWD

You may occasionally find yourself dealing with a number of journalists together, at a press conference or an event for example. Make sure this isn't a case of being ‘doorstepped', in which case you should politely decline to answer questions.

Otherwise, bear the following in mind:

· Stand up, don't step back or you will find yourself backed into a corner, literally.

· Ignore any lights, cameras, microphones or flashlights.

· Concentrate on each questioner in turn. Look at him/her as if you were in conversation.

· Keep your answers precise and brief, without being abrupt.

· If you are asked the same question repeatedly, answer it repeatedly. Never lose patience.

· Whatever the question, remember your key messages and get them across.

· After answering a reasonable number of questions, politely explain you have to leave and calmly make your departure.

Do not rush or push your way out, even journalists will allow you through once you stop answering questions.

Being photographed by the media If you are asked to attend a photoshoot, or you are at an event with newspaper photographers, observe the following rules:

· Remember the camera will follow you into the room, while you're there and as you leave. Never allow your guard to drop.

· Allow more time for photographers than you think is necessary. They like to take every angle and if you ‘clockwatch' they will be less inclined to be flattering with their shots.

· Try to ignore flashlights.

· Photographers are looking for unusual shots, so avoid too many hand gestures or exaggerated body movement.

· At photoshoots, do not allow yourself to be directed by photographers. A COMPANY press contact should manage the shots and confirm which poses, or props, are appropriate.

Photographers can be very determined. Stay calm, be polite, don't lose your patience.

TV INTERVIEWS

The following rules are particularly relevant for a television interview:

· On TV you are what you look like. You must look the part, and appropriate for the occasion.

· Dress simply. Avoid white, stripes or very bold colours which ‘strobe' on TV. In most cases, wear your jacket unless the producer suggests otherwise. If you wear jewellery make sure it doesn't distract the viewer (eg. long necklaces or earrings).

· Ask someone to check your clothes, tie and your hair.

· Arrive in good time, but prepare yourself for occasionally long delays. This is the nature of television.

· Don't drink alcohol before the programme/show.

· Sit up straight, but comfortably (i.e. without being too stiff).

· Don't fidget - take particular care with ‘swivel' chairs and avoid having anything in your hands which you might inadvertently play with.

· Even highly experienced people forget they are being recorded when producers ask to check your voice for ‘sound levels' - be careful you are not one of them.

· Look at the interviewer as if you are having a normal conversation. Break eye contact downward, not upward or to the side.

· Ignore cameras, lights, microphones and other studio equipment (unless directed by a producer for technical reasons - and if so, ask why].

· Avoid referring to notes, unless you intend to emphasise or quote directly to make a point.

· Do not look directly into the camera lens - this is very uncomfortable for viewers. The exception is when you're in a remote studio or on a down-the-line link.

· Talk at a measured pace. Command the time, pause, think, and don't rush. If the interview gets tough, slow down.

· If it is a ‘down-the-line' or remote TV interview imagine the person you are talking to - picture him/her sitting with you, and talk to the image.

· Never display negative emotions or reactions (e.g. hostility, impatience, arrogance, boredom).

· A TV camera exaggerates your emotions. Keep a level manner throughout - a well-placed smile on television is worth a thousand words.

· Don't be over-familiar with your interviewer (eg. "well John... yes,

John... no, John... absolutely, John..."). It makes for poor television (and

radio).

· Avoid jargon. Tell your story and make your points as if you were explaining yourself to a friend.

· Remember the camera may still be on you even if you're not talking.

· And finally... do not assume the interview is over until you are out of the studio. The camera, certainly the microphone, can follow you as long as you're in the same room.

· Finally, be yourself and demonstrate an interest in your story. If you don't, nobody will.

Two thousand years ago, Aristotle observed that the character of a speaker

was his most effective means of persuasion. He's still right.

KenQom - A Social Media Marketing & Communications Advisory is based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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